It was the last bastion of the Spanish inquisition. Prosecution for heresy was spreading and becoming a form of abuse among non-Catholics. The dreadful punishments and torture, the unfair trials, the schemes and blames of witchcraft was everywhere. It was not only turning into segregation of different beliefs, but as a means to destroy enemies.
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In the name of Jesus Christ, countless innocent victims were killed and often times raped by priests, blackmailing their victims or threatening torture if they do not indulge the priests of their insatiable lust for carnal pleasures and power. Cities in Britain and Europe were in turmoil. Millions of people tried to hide their personal beliefs that did not comply with the traditions and doctrines of Rome. People turned a blind eye on every form of abuse, scared of contradicting the mighty laws of the Church. Even the idea of revolution was unfathomable, because during this period, there was not a single person in authority you could trust.
Cara pushed the boat closer to the stream, straining but mentally dedicated to riding that little wooden raft and sailing away – any place but here.
Carra was, 14 years old, a street vendor, and the daughter of Padre Francisco, a wealthy high official of the Church. Her mother Anna was Jewish, and was captured by the police inquisition while mourning the death of her father. Her neighbors caught sight of her mourning rituals and immediately alerted the guards. She was taken away instantly and she never saw the burial of her own father. She heard that her house was burnt down after her arrest, leaving the corpse of her father inside. She thought of her father’s ashes as Padre Francisco called her name from behind the metal bars.
Anna stared straight at the priest and denied the accusations of witchcraft. The priest merely smiled and hushed her, and told her the punishments for lying. After several weeks of torture Anna lost all her will to live, her eyes were blank as one of the guards pulled off all the nails on her left hand. She just sighed and prayed for death. The saddest part was that it did not come sooner.
During the fourth week of her confinement, Padre Francisco clanged a metal chain on the bars and gestured for her to come closer. Feeling resigned she walked over to him, eyes vacant, not a single drop of fear or pain could be seen in her eyes as she looked straight at him, and spat in his face. The priest was surprised. His expression could be compared to a demon, or the gargoyles that hung in those gigantic cathedrals, keeping an eye on each city. In a split second he raised his hand as if to slap her, but suddenly his expression shifted and he was smiling, almost serenely and asked for the guards to open the bars and remove her metal shackles.
Anna kept slapping him as he tried to undress her, the more she swung her fists at him the more he got aroused, the harsher he got. He forced his erect penis deep inside her as two other guards held her down, sniggering like hyenas and getting aroused too. When the priest was done with her the guards asked for permission if they can pleasure themselves using her body too, he thought for a moment and muttered: “just the mouth”.
Anna was released three months after that ordeal. She hid herself from the public eye and decided to beg for alms to make a living, covered in grime and hiding her growing belly beneath the mud soaked tattered robes.
After a few more months she gave birth to Cara, a perfectly healthy baby girl but never got to see the child she carried for nine months. She gave birth behind a dark alley and no one was there to help her. She lost too much blood. The last thing she heard was the sound of a baby crying.
Cara never knew anything about her parents, she never really cared, a free spirited girl, she lived most of her life stealing scraps and money from over paid aristocrats who have nothing to do but keep their bellies full. And she was tired of it. There was something about sailing in the stream that made her feel relaxed. It was like being one with the flow of water. She appreciated nature more than anything, and knows that it gave her life. Not the one they call Jesus Christ.
She did not care about the policy of suppressing all people nor of the conformity to official dogma. She would rather stay hidden and live her life the way she wanted to. If millions of people in the cities were half as courageous as her, they would never have to deal with the inquisition again. But Cara was special, absolutely different from all the rest. She was definitely smart for her age. She learned to read and write just by spying on educated men, and by reading signs and newspapers. And she could draw anything from memory. The streets were full of her illustrations. Portraits of anyone, from bakers to The Pope, were sketched on bare walls, especially near the church, where the walls were whitest. Guards and slaves did not appreciate the work they had to do to clean the drawings on the walls, but, they let Cara do her drawings without punishment. Her talent was undeniable, and every man, poor and rich alike were amazed at her skills.
Cara was burning coals near the stream where she lived, a small shack made of stolen lumbers was her home. She was sharpening the brunt wood with a knife, creating more medium for her illustrations when she heard the sound of a horn in the nearby city. She knew that the soldiers of inquisition were marching there, armed with the Papal Bull, authorization from The Pope to enter the town. There they will read the Declaration of the Pope and start arresting people who were accused of being heretics. She thought for a minute and decided to witness the arrests. She ran to town wondering if any one she knew would be taken away by the guards. She was dreading the thought.
She arrived and settled herself among the huge crowd circling the guards. Everyone was speaking in a hushed voice, afraid that any of the guards would turn their heads or swords on them. Cara’s heart skipped a beat when she heard one priest ask aloud, “Who drew these pictures on the walls?” Unaware why she did it, she stepped forward. It must be her ego – the ego of a natural artist that made her claim the vandalisms, even in such dangerous times. But it was too late to back out now The Priest already saw her, and she was instantly taken away by the guards. The villagers sighed in relief as each of the horsemen left without taking another human being.
She entered a great hall where an old man with red robes was standing. He turned around and there was something about his face that told her that he recognized her. His face then shifted to its scowling form, and he simply nodded at the two guards to leave the hall. Cara hated this man immediately, not knowing why. He had a silly looking gray beard and he had shiny cheeks. His belly was swallen, dying to burst out of its robes and he had an irritating smirk. There was something really sinister about this person and she was already regretting that she had drawn the pictures on the walls. He went over to her. It was almost as if he was avoiding eye contact and told her to make him a portrait. She was already scared by this time and she just nodded. Ground pigments made of stones, wood and metals were taken inside immediately and the priest positioned himself near the window while holding a goblet of wine. She never tried using oil paints before but she had seen them used in tile makers in the village.
Cara started drawing the portrait. About halfway through, the priest went up to her and checked her progress. He was satisfied, and told her to write “The Great Padre Francisco” at the bottom and then went back to his chair.
She wanted to do a great job so she mixed more colors with so much enthusiasm and was shocked when she realized that she was dipping her brushes into his goblet thinking it was the glass for linseed oil. He accidentally left it beside her when he checked the painting. She did not say a word, but nervously worked on the portrait.
She was in full terror as he approached again. She wasn’t done yet. She had not even started on his lips. She was trembling now. She tried to give him a weak smile to conceal her nervousness when suddenly he snatched the goblet, drinking it in one gulp with the zinc, titanium and copper mixed in with the alcohol. He merely raised his left eyebrow at her and asked what part she hasn’t finished yet. She looked at him, and strangely she was not nervous anymore. It seemed to him that her voice was amplified as she told him: “Just the mouth”.
He crumpled to the floor, his mouth foaming and his yellowish eyes bulging out of their sockets. The young girl was looked at him as he tried to ask for help, but he could not utter a single word. He pleaded with his eyes, but the eyes staring back at him were not of a child. They belonged to a young woman from years ago. A women who stared straight at him and spat in his face, defiantly resisting his advances. Remembering his words to his guards, “just the mouth”.